N0S4A2: Season 1, Episode 4 Recap and Review

I make my sweaty way through my days lately.

Life as a Not Floridian can be tough, sometimes.

But my Monday nights are offering a cool oasis from the oppressive Not Floridian heat…

In fact, I feel that Christmas has come…

Well, Christmasland, right?

In other words, I am watching the first season of N0S4A2, the hot (ha) new TV show based on the novel of the same name, written by Joe Hill.

We are on episode 4, so we are nearly halfway through the season.

And things are continuing to heat up (or maybe freeze up, if you like that better.)

This episode gave of some more background information on an important character, while continue to move the chains, in much the same way as the offense of your favorite football field moves down the field, marching ever closer to the end zone.

And while we don’t have a touchdown yet, I think we are getting closer to the red (or maybe blue) zone.

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of episode 4 of N0S4A2, titled The House of Sleep.

And, as always:

 

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N0S4A2: Season 1, Episode 2 Recap and Review

Hello, I see you are back for more shenanigans from your favorite Not Floridian!

Not much has changed here is Not Florida

In other words, still hotter than H-E-Double Hockey Stick!

Luckily, I now have a way to cool down…

In other words, a visit to Christmasland is just what the soul sucking vampire (who is not actually my ex) ordered!

So, yeah, I am watching N0S4A2.

Again, we are only two episodes in.

But (unlike my ex) it has not disappointed.

In fact, I am warming to it (hashtag irony, yanno?)

As a self proclaimed book douche, I can be pretty picky about adaptations.

There is a right way to do them, and then there are the torture porn films that we know as Joel Schumacher Batman movies.

And so far, N0S4A2 is not a Joel Schumacher Batman movie.

I am not quite sure if it is the Marvel movie equivalent, but it may be gaining that status.

I am starting to get this feeling that this is the hot (hashtag irony again, amirite?) new series of the summer.

So, buckle up in your Rolls Royce Wraith, and let’s take a ride into Christmasland, shall we, and dissect and review episode 2, titled The Graveyard of What Might Be.

And, as always:

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N0S4A2: Season 1, Episode 1 Recap and Review

So, the month of June has come upon us.

As in, it’s summer time…

You know, when the temperatures rise and the sunscreen doesn’t matter?

Of course, I live in an unnamed state in the southern United States.

All I can tell you is that it’s not Florida.

And living in Not Florida during the summertime is just Not Cool.

As in, it’s hot.

Really hot.

Seriously, my face melted off the other day.

Anyone have any hints for cleaning melted face off the floor?  Windex doesn’t seem to be working very well…

So, since it is so hot in Not Florida right now, I am doing what any red blooded (as in even my blood is sweating) Not Floridian would do…

Finding the nearest air conditioned living room and making camp in there until…

Oh, October or so…

So, to keep my self entertained during this sweltering Not Florida summer, I am spending some quality time with my television set.

You, just watching some Christmas stuff, right?

Yes, you heard that right!

I am watching some Christmas stuff here in Not Florida, while trying to mop my face off the floor!

In other words, we are talking about the premiere of the show N0S4A2, a television show based on the novel of the same name.

It goes without saying that the source material is a novel written by Joe Hill, who has been deemed the Prince of Horror.

You know, since dear old dad is The King, after all?

I am huge fan of the source material, and just a fan of The Prince in general.

(His number one fan, heehee.)

So, I watched the series premiere of N0S4A2 this week.

And I must say, I see potential here…

Lots of potential, in all its icy, snowy, Christmas-y potential glory…

And I am excited…

Christmas is only supposed to come once a year, right?

So, without further ado, let’s get down to our review and synopsis of episode 1 of season 1 of N0S4A2, titled The Shorter Way.

And, as always:

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Welcome to the Inscape: My Review of NOS4A2

Lately, confusion seems to be rampant in our world.

As in, we are confused as to what the difference is between between the beast that we call a fact, and the lesser known distant cousin of the fact, otherwise known as an “alternative fact.”

Since I myself am a survivor of the Bowling Green Massacre, let me educate you on the difference between facts and alternative facts.

kellyanne-1

The following information is brought to you by BARF (Bureau of Alternative Real Facts.)

Fact:  Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a classic movie, and should be required viewing for all school age children.

killer klowns 3 - Copy

Alternative fact:  Jupiter Ascending is classified as a film.  And one that people are allowed to watch, to boot.

Fact:  The Colts are the coolest team in the NFL and Andrew Luck and co. are never given the credit that they deserve.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts

Alternative fact:  The Patriots have won their fifth Super Bowl under Tom Brady and a now a dynasty.  As a Colts fan all I have to say is #notmySuperBowl, dammit!

And now, for the factiest fact that you ever facting heard, motherfacters!

Joe Hill is a bad ass.  A motherfacting bad ass, in fact.

Joe Hill 2

And if you don’t agree with me, well then fact off, you facter!

In other words, I just finished reading NOS4A2, written by The Master 2.0.

And I assure, I survived my trip to Christmasland, although, between you and me, the inhabitants of that place are kind of hostile.  In fact, they will suck the life right out of you…

So, gear up your Rolls Royce Wraith, strap in and get ready for the recap and review of NOS4A2.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler

 


Synopsis

The story begins by introducing the reader to a nurse named Ellen Thornton.   Ellen works in a prison infirmary, where most of the patients are comatose and unresponsive to any form of human contact.

One of these patients is a man named Charlie Manx.  Manx is extremely elderly, and was also convicted of terrible crimes:  he was convicted of kidnapping and murdering young children.

One night, as Ellen is making her rounds, something unexpected happens:  Manx appears to awake from him comatose state, and speaks to Ellen.  He specifically refers to Ellen’s son by his full name, and makes references to some place he calls “Christmasland” and someone named the “Gas Mask Man.”

Ellen calls for the doctors, as she is badly frightened.  However, Manx exhibits no sign of consciousness once the doctors arrive, and Ellen is not believed, despite the fact that Manx grabbed her hard enough to leave bruises, and the fact that Manx referred to her son by his full name.

The story then switches to the perspective of a young girl named Victoria McQueen, also known as Vic.  Vic’s father Chris also calls Vic The Brat.

At first, Vic seems to be an ordinary young girl.  However, we find out that Vic is anything but ordinary.  Vic possesses the ability to teleport herself between faraway places.  Vic does this by riding her bike, and envisioning a bridge she calls The Shorter Way Bridge, which seems to magically appear when Vic wants to find a lost object.  The bridge takes Vic to the place where the object was lost, and then takes her back to her original location.  However, Vic’s talent also comes at a cost:  she experiences headaches and becomes extremely ill when she uses this ability.

We are then introduced to a troubled man named Bing Partridge.  One day, as Bing is leafing through some old magazines, he comes across an ad promising employment in a place called “Christmasland.”  The ad is not specific in regards to the job details, but Bing is enchanted, as he loves celebrating Christmas, which brings back happy memories for him.  Bing sends away his application for employment in Christmasland, desperately hoping that he gets a response soon.  We also learn that Bing killed both of his parents as a child, and spent time in a mental institution before he was released.  Bing is employed as a janitor, and has access to certain kinds of gases that can turn a person into a zombie, along with his own gas mask.

Almost immediately, Bing begins to have visions of past Christmases with his parents, and begins to dream of Christmasland.  However, days go by, and he does not get a response to his application.

Bing also begins to see a mysterious vehicle circling his work place.  The vehicle is an old Rolls Royce Wraith, and is black.  However, the driver of the vehicle continues to remain a mystery.

One day, Bing finally meets the driver of vehicle, who introduces himself as Charles Talent Manx.  Manx convinces Bing to go for a ride in the vehicle, so he can describe the opportunity that awaits Bing in Christmasland, if Bing chooses to accept.  Once he is in the vehicle, Bing begins to feel sleepy.  Manx tells him that is okay, as Bing will be entering another reality of sorts.

Manx tells Bing that he saves children from a life of pain and abuse by taking them to an alternate reality he calls “Christmasland.”  In Christmasland, the children never have to grow up, and it is always Christmas, every day, all year.  Manx says that the children are his, but that Bing can do what he wishes to any parents or any other parties that may need to be subdued, as most will not want Manx to take their children away.  Bing eagerly accepts the employment opportunity, and he and Manx get to work.

Over the years, several children vanish under mysterious circumstances.  In many of these disappearances, a mysterious Rolls Royce Wraith is spotted.  However, none of the disappearances are ever connected.

Vic is now a teenager.  She has used her bike many times to create the Shorter Way Bridge, so that she can locate lost objects.  Vic is also a budding artist who has received recognition for her work.

One day, Vic uses her talent to locate a missing photograph.  In doing so, she badly startles the school janitor, who relapses back into alcoholism.  Vic feels extremely guilty and begins to question her use of this ability.  The Shorter Way Bridge makes another appearance, and Vic rides her bike through it.

The Shorter Way Bridge deposits Vic in a library somewhere in Iowa.  There, she meets a young woman named Maggie, who seems to have been expecting Vic to make an appearance.  Maggie dresses in a colorful manner.  Maggie is also afflicted with a bad stammer, which makes her speech difficult to understand.

Vic is bewildered, but Maggie attempts to reassure her.  Maggie tells Vic that while her abilities may be a bit unusual, she is not alone in being gifted with these abilities.  According to Maggie, many highly creative people (Vic is an accomplished artist and Maggie is gifted in the use of language and also an accomplished Scrabble player) possess the ability to alter reality.  Maggie compares this to someone who uses a knife to make cuts in various objects, and refers to these altered realities as “inscapes.”

We also learn that Maggie has the ability to create her own “inscapes” and alter reality.  Sometimes, Maggie’s Scrabble tiles will spell out sentences on her own.  This is how Maggie knew to expect Vic:  her Scrabble tiles told her of “The Brat” (but not Vic’s name, as no proper nouns are allowed in Scrabble.)

Maggie also states that her Scrabble tiles have indicated that Vic can find someone or something known as “The Wraith.”  Vic demands to know who or who “The Wraith” is, but Maggie tries to change the subject, telling Vic that The Wraith is bad news and dangerous to Vic.

At Vic’s insistence, Maggie breaks down and gives her what information she has on The Wraith.  According to Maggie, The Wraith is another person who possesses abilities similar to hers and Vic’s.  However, The Wraith uses his abilities for evil, as he kidnaps children to steal their souls so that he may achieve immortality, trapping the children in an “inscape” of his own creation.  Maggie then sends Vic back home, warning her once again to stay away from “The Wraith” as he is dangerous.

When Vic returns home, she becomes extremely ill as a result of her latest journey.  Her parents become extremely worried, and confiscate her bicycle, as they believe she has an unhealthy fixation.  Vic eventually recovers, and resumes her normal, every day life.

In the meantime, more children disappear.  Once again, a Rolls Royce Wraith is spotted when some of these disappearances take place, but the cases are never connected.

Vic grows into a troubled teenager,  When she is fourteen years old, her parents divorce, and her father abandons Vic and her mother.  Vic acts out, turning to alcohol and drugs.  Her grades in school are mediocre, although her art teacher notes that Vic has a talent for art, although Vic does apply herself.

One day, after an argument with both of her parents, Vic sneaks back into her house and falls asleep.  When she awakens, she searches for some of her belongings that were confiscated by her mother, and finds her old bicycle.

Vic begins to ride her bicycle, and remember happier times during her childhood.  However, it is not long before the bicycle leads her to trouble, which happens to be the lair of Charles Manx, or The Wraith.

Almost right away, Vic realizes that something is not right.  She encounters what she thinks is a young child, but the creature only resembles a child in name only, as it has sharp teeth and appears to be breathing some sort of vapor or smoke when it speaks.

Vic also encounters Charles Manx, who attempts to entice her.  When Vic refuses, her Shorter Way Bridge vanishes, leaving her stranded.  Manx also sets fire to the house, intending to trap Vic in the house so that she will perish from the fire.

However, Vic escapes the house.  She is assisted by man named Lou Carmody, who happens to be in the area, riding his motorcycle.  Lou takes Vic to a nearby gas station, so that she can attempt to get help.  Vic realizes that she is actually in Colorado, instead of her home of Massachusetts, and that she has been missing for two days.  Vic indicates that she has been kidnapped, as she knows that no one will believe her story about the Shorter Way Bridge.

As Vic is telling her story, Charles Manx and his vehicle make an appearance at the gas station.  The men at the gas station attempt to apprehend Manx, and a fight ensues.  However, Manx is apprehended in the end, and arrested for his crimes.  The official story is that Vic was kidnapped, and there is no mention of any of the stranger elements to her story.

Some years later, Vic moves back to Colorado, under the pretense of attending art school.  She pursues a relationship with Lou Carmody, and the two have a child together named Bruce Wayne Carmody, who they call Wayne.  Vic loves Lou and Wayne, but is afraid to admit, as she feels that she is not good enough for either of them.  Vic also receives troubling phone calls from children who state that they are residents of Christmasland.  These phone calls frighten her, but she does not tell anyone about them.

Bing Partridge is never apprehended by the authorities for his role in Manx’s crimes. and anxiously awaits the return of Manx, as he believes that he will receive his eternal reward in Christmasland.

Vic notices that when she engages in some kind of creative active, such as painting, that phone calls from Christmasland stop.  She keeps herself busy by painting motorcycles and also by writing and illustrating children’s books.  However, the mysterious calls start again, and Vic’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic.  Lou moves out of their house, taking their son with him, but he is worried about Vic.  Vic then burns down her house in an attempt to silence the calls from Christmasland.

In the meantime, Manx’s vehicle has been purchased at an auction by a man and his daughter.  One day, the vehicle comes to life, killing its new owner, as Bing has found it, so that he may reunite with Manx.

Charles Manx is thought to be deceased, but his body goes missing from the mortuary.

Vic is institutionalized for her erratic behavior, and comes to believe that her experiences with the Shorter Way Bridge and mysterious telephone calls are simply vivid hallucinations caused by her abuse of alcohol and other drugs.  When she is released from the mental hospital, she temporarily moves back to Massachusetts to spend some time with her mother Linda, who is dying of cancer.  Vic also makes plans to spend the summer with her son Wayne, as she feels that she has failed him as a mother.

Tragically, Linda passes away just as Vic is able to secure a cottage for the summer.  However, Vic still makes plans to spend time with her son Wayne, and Lou sends him to his mother for the summer.

In the meantime, we find out that Bing has managed to steal the body of Charles Manx, who is actually still alive, although barely.  Bing sets up camp in the house across the street from Vic’s childhood home, killing the home’s owners, and placing Charles Manx in the bedroom.  Bing waits for Vic, as he intends to murder Vic, and hand Wayne over to Manx.

Vic returns to her childhood home sometime in July, as Lou has arrived in town to spend Fourth of July with his son.   Vic is greeted by a face from her past:  Maggie, the woman from Iowa whom she met as a child.

While Vic recognizes Maggie, she is not happy to see her, as she still believes Maggie to be a delusion from her past.  Maggie begs Vic to help her stop Charles Manx, who she insists is alive and on the hunt for Vic and Wayne.  Maggie hands Vic a file containing some paperwork on Manx, but Vic chases Maggie away from her house, and threatens to call the police.

Later, Wayne finds the folder on Manx and peeks at it, as he is curious.  Bing spots Wayne from the house he is commandeering, but is unable to do anything, as Lou arrives, and Bing does not want to be seen.  Bing realizes that Vic is in the neighborhood, and makes preparations to capture Vic and Wayne.

That evening, Vic speaks to Lou, and finds out that Wayne has mentioned Manx to his father.  Vic tells Lou about her childhood experiences with the Shorter Way Bridge, and the real story of how she encountered Charles Manx.  Vic recognizes that she may be delusion, and indicates this to Lou.  Vic also tells Lou that she thinks Maggie was a patient at the mental hospital, who is sharing in Vic’s delusions.  Vic makes plans to move back to Colorado that fall, so that she can be closer to Wayne.

Wayne believes that Charles Manx is nearby, and becomes frightened, even though he thinks that he is imagining things.

Vic and Wayne work on a motorcycle that was left at the summer cottage, fixing it up and giving it a new paint job.  Vic decides to take the bike for a spin, and tells Wayne that she will return shortly.

Vic rides the bike, and is able to conjure the Shorter Way Bridge, just as she had been able to do as a child.  However, Vic continues to believe that she is delusional.

Wayne waits at the house for his mother.  He hears a knock on the door, and encounters Bing and Manx, who tell him they need to use the phone, as they have run Wayne’s dog Hooper over with their car.

Bing and Manx then proceed to kidnap Wayne.  Wayne shouts for his mother, who is just now returning from her trip and does not realize what has happened.

However, Vic soon does realize what has happened, and runs to the car in an attempt to rescue Wayne.  She fights Manx, who attacks her with a hammer.  Bing shoots at Vic, but misses Vic and hits Manx in the ear instead.  The men then escape, with Wayne trapped in the car.

Lou is at the airport, awaiting his flight.  Lou receives a panicked call from Wayne.  Wayne tells his father that he has been kidnapped, and then hangs up the phone.  Lou then collapses, due to a sudden heart attack.

Wayne tries to escape, but Bing douses him with gas so that he cannot think and becomes very sleepy.  Manx tells him that he is going to Christmasland, and that he will never see his parents again.

Vic meets with the authorities at her mother’s house.  The FBI has been brought in, as the authorities believe that Wayne’s kidnapper may cross state lines.  Lou also meets with Vic and the authorities.  Vic’s mental illness is brought up by a FBI agent, Tabitha Hutter, who does not agree with Vic in regards to Manx returning and seeking vengeance.  Vic also describes her earlier experience with the Shorter Way Bridge. Lou tells Vic that he believes her, and Vic tells Lou that she will do whatever she can to rescue their son.

Manx drives his vehicle through his inscape, giving Wayne a glimpse into Christmasland.  Wayne falls into a trance, and becomes excited about living in Christmasland.  However, the ghost of Wayne’s grandmother soon appears in the vehicle.  She appears to be speaking in reverse, and gives Wayne a cryptic message before she vanishes:  he must speak in reverse.

Manx then stops at Bing’s house so that he can rest and recover from his wounds.  Wayne then notices that the vehicle has peculiar properties:  objects seem to vanish and then reappear.  Wayne also finds some Christmas ornaments.  He becomes fixated on one that resembles a moon, but has a face.

Wayne is then questioned by Manx, who promises him a phone call to his mother.  Manx tricks Wayne into giving him some information about Maggie, along with Vic’s new motorcycle, and does not allow Wayne a call to his mother.

At her home, Vic is growing more and more worried about her son.  Lou is attempting to fix her motorcycle for her, so that she can conjure the Shorter Way Bridge and rescue Wayne.  Vic receives a phone call.  The caller is Maggie.  Maggie tells Vic that her son is still alive, and that she will help however she can.

After Vic hangs up the phone, she is confronted by Agent Hutter, who has heard the entire conversation.  Hutter attempts to arrest Vic, but Vic escapes from the house, and uses her motorcycle to drive away.  Eventually, she is able to conjure the Shorter Way Bridge, and is able to arrive at the house where Wayne was being kept.

In the meantime, Manx leaves with Wayne in his vehicle, promising that he will take Wayne to Christmasland.   Manx does not allow Bing to come with them, as he says that Bing has failed in his duties. Wayne’s personality is beginning to change, as he is horrified to remember that he pulled the wings off of a butterfly.  Wayne is also fixated on his Christmas ornament, constantly touching it.

Vic realizes that Wayne and Manx have left, and becomes upset.  A man allows her to use his phone.  Vic does not realize that this man is actually Bing, until he attacks her.

Wayne continues to travel with Manx.  He sees visions of Christmasland and is anxious to arrive.  However, he receives a visit from the ghost of his dead grandmother, who again tries to warn him that he must think in reverse.  However, Wayne dismisses the old woman’s ghost, as his personality has begun to change.  Wayne has also begun to loose some of his teeth, and appears to be growing small fangs in their place.

Vic fights Bing.  She manages to escape, but sets the house on fire.  Before she escapes, she receives a call from Manx.  Vic pleads with Manx to release Wayne but Manx refuses.  Manx allows Vic to speak to Wayne.  Vic senses that Wayne’s personality is changing due to his exposure to Manx, and tells Wayne that he must fight Manx, and that she will do whatever it takes to rescue him.

After she speaks to Wayne, Vic then speaks to Lou and Agent Hutter over the telephone.  She tells Lou that she has a plan to stop Manx and rescue Wayne, but that she will need a large amount of explosive material to accomplish this.  After Vic hangs the phone, Lou suffers from a heart attack and is rushed to the hospital.

Vic uses the Shorter Wayne Bridge to locate Maggie.  She arrives at Maggie’s library in Iowa, which was destroyed by a flood a few years back.  However, Maggie is there, and Vic recounts the events of the past few days.

Maggie tells Vic that Manx does possess the same abilities that they possess, but that he uses his abilities for evil.  She tells Vic that Manx’s car must be destroyed in order to destroy Manx.  Maggie also tells Vic that the use of their abilities comes at a cost: Maggie’s stammer has worsened, Vic’s brain has been damaged and Manx has lost all of his empathy, and now revels in the suffering of his others.  The children Manx has kidnapped have also been stripped of their humanity, as they exist for pleasure only, and do not comprehend the suffering of others.

While Vic falls asleep asleep due to exhaustion, Maggie consults her Scrabble tiles for information in regards to Manx.  As she does this, a young boy enters the ruins of her library with firecrackers.  At first, Maggie thinks that it is a local child playing a prank, but realizes that the boy is Wayne, who is acting under the influence of Manx.  Wayne utters some incomprehensible words (his human side knows that what he is doing is wrong) and lures Maggie out to Manx and his car.

Manx immediately attacks Maggie with his vehicle.  Maggie puts up a fight and refuses to give any information about Vic, who is still asleep inside.  Maggie is killed by the impact, and Manx exits the scene.

Lou has been hospitalized due to his heart attack.  However, he escapes in search of his son.  Agent Hutter and her partner are aware of the escape, and plan to use Lou to track down Vic, who they still believe to be responsible for her son’s kidnapping.

Vic arrives at her father’s house.  Lou and her father are waiting for her, with the explosives that she has requested.  However, the FBI agents have tracked down Vic, who refuses to surrender.  Agent Hutter realizes that there may be something to Vic’s story, but her colleagues do not, and open fire on Vic and her family.  Vic’s father is shot, but Vic escapes with Lou on her motorcycle.

Once again, Vic conjures the Shorter Way Bridge.  She leaves Lou in handcuffs, as she feels that this a job for her only.  Vic then makes her way into Christmasland, via her motorcycle and the Shorter Way Bridge, to confront Manx and rescue her son.

Manx sends his children after Vic, and they attack.  Vic fights back and is stabbed by one of the children.  The explosives go off, causing mass destruction.  Wayne realizes that his mother has come to rescue him, and escapes from Manx, hopping on the motorcycle with his mother.

Vic escapes Christmasland with Wayne.  Manx follows her, but his vehicle (and there Manx himself) is destroyed by a flock of bats that emerge from the Shorter Way Bridge.

Finally, Vic emerges with Wayne back into their world.  Her job done, Vic perishes from her wounds and the effects of creating the bridge and traveling to Christmasland.

Several months later, Wayne is living with his father.  Lou has lost weight after angioplasty procedure, and is in a relationship with Tabitha Hutter.  However, Wayne knows that something wrong with him, as he is aroused by anything violent and even thinks that he can feel an extra set of teeth in his mouth.

One day, Lou and Tabitha take Wayne for a ride.  They arrive at the house Manx had used to keep his children captive.  Lou realizes that Wayne’s soul is trapped in one of Manx’s Christmas ornaments.  Lou, Tabitha and Wayne begin smashing the ornaments.  Several children that Manx had kidnapped emerge, restored to their human selves.

Eventually, the ornament containing Wayne’s soul is destroyed.  Wayne sobs with relief, happy that his humanity has returned.


My Thoughts

Okay, let’s talk to Captain Obvious for a moment.  So, just bear with me.

Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son, in case your head has been buried under a rock for…oh…the past 10 years or so.

Stephen King mit Katze "Clovis", tierischer Held des Films "Schlafwandler". Der Meister des Horrors wird am Sonntag (21.09.1997) 50 Jahre. Mit 50 hat er mehr als 30 Romane veröffentlicht, ein Sachbuch, fünf Geschichtensammlungen und neun Drehbücher. dpa (zu dpa-Korr vom 17.09.1997) nur s/w

(And hey, no judgement, being buried under a rock can be pretty comfy sometimes!)

And while I like to evaluate Joe Hill on his own merits, let’s be realistic.

Let’s get it out of our system, and talk about how he is the son of Stephen King.

Well, writing-wise that is.

We can leave the family drama for those better equipped to handle it, and not put TMZ out of a job.

Other than the fact that NOS4A2 reads a bit like an older King novel, in that it has build and will scare you into a change of pants, it is the novel that most screams:  I am the son of the master of modern horror, and if you dare to forget it, well, let’s not even go there!

NOS4A2, in other words, has tons of Stephen King Easter eggs.  In fact, this book may have even more King Easter eggs than some King books.

easter eggs 1

First of all, the obvious connection.

I am speaking of the one to Doctor Sleep, the follow up novel to The Shining (both written by The Master himself, but you knew that.)

Rose the Hat

I can tell you that I definitely sleep better knowing that Charles Manx and The True Knot have some silent truce between themselves, that they both can go on (literally) sucking the life out of children and if one gets found out, we know that the other did not rat on them.  Definitely useful information to have.

And, oohhh, direct reference to Derry, along with Pennywise’s Traveling Circus!  Again, whenever I have trouble sleeping at night, I can rest in comfort knowing that Manx and Mr. Bob Gray were likely on a first name basis at some point!

balloon2

Vic yelling “Hi-yo Silver!” as she jumps on her bike was added bonus.  Not that I am complaining, although a few tears did spring to my eyes as I recalled some fond childhood memories of murderous clowns…

Then there is the similarity between The Sleigh House (geez, these jokes kill me sometimes) and Black House, another house in a King novel of the same name.

black house 1

The way the children start coming out of the house at the end of both books is so similar, not to mention the fact that Charles Manx is pretty similar to Charles Burnside, another villain who gets his rocks off on kidnapping and hurting kids.

I can also take comfort in the fact that Maggie’s “creatives” (more on that later) may be able to travel to the world of our friendly neighborhood gunslinger.

gunslinger

Is Jake Chambers one of Maggie’s creatives?  An interesting question, but one for another day.

And don’t let me forget the nod to The Stand (and the Dark Tower series) when Bing utters those famous words:  My life for you.

Trashy 1

Oh, and apparently Bill Hodges and company had to hunt down a certain missing vehicle that just happened to be a Rolls Roy Wraith…funny how that works out!

Well, now that it is out of our system (feel better?), let’s talk about Joe Hill and NOS4A2 on their own merits.

So sorry, Uncle Stevie, you have been relegated to another blog entry!

One thing about NOS4A2…it is one scary book!

Well duh, it is written by Prince of Modern Horror, who is the son of the King of Modern Horror.  So we shouldn’t be surprised by scary, right?

Yes and no.  Am I entirely surprised that it’s scary?

Christmasland 1

No, I am not.

What is shocking is the fact that NOS4A2 is essentially a vampire story, but modernized.

After all, who isn’t familiar with Dracula?

Dracula 1

Or Kurt Barlow from ‘Salem’s Lot?

Well, now we can add Charles Manx to that list of fictional vampires.

'Salem's Lot 2

Now, Manx is not like Barlow or Dracula, at least on the surface.

He’s old, but not centuries old.

His victims are usually kids.

Charlie Manx 1

He drives a bad ass vehicle.

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Somehow, I don’t think a rosary or garlic would phase him very much.

(Did anyone else think of this guy when Manx was introduced, by the way?  Or is it just me?)

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But, back to Manx.

He may not drink blood, like Barlow and Dracula.

But he is still a vampire, nonetheless.

His preferred food is not blood, but the souls of children.  Since he is all modern-like.

As a bonus, like Barlow and Dracula, he has a human familiar in Bing, who may be even more demented than either Straker or Renfield, if that’s possible.  At the very least, he holds his own.

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And Manx does not need to be able to fly or even move quickly, as he has a vehicle that allows him to travel to back and forth between realities.

Who said that newer necessarily means inferior?

Manx can hold his own!

Speaking of holding one’s own, let’s talk about Vic for a moment.

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Now, there is is someone who can hold her own and then some.

One thing I have noticed about Joe Hill is that he writes female characters extremely well.

Harper (The Fireman) was a great example of this.

Even Georgia and Merrin (Heart Shaped Box and Horns, respectively) were well written characters, despite the fact that that Georgia is the girlfriend of the main character in Heart Shaped Box, and Merrin is the dead girlfriend of Ig in Horns.  Even though we mainly see them from the eyes of a male, both are fascinating and sympathetic.

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But, Mr. Hill decided that having a woman as the interesting girlfriend of a main character just wasn’t good enough.  And then Vic was born.

To put it simply, Vic kicks ass.  There is no way around that statement.

While Vic may not always be easy to like, it is understandable as to why she may be unlikable at times, due to her upbringing (watching your dad wash his hands because they were bloodied due to beating your mom may cause a girl to have some issues.)

Vic’s character has a great arc.

She starts off as a spunky girl, morphs into a rebellious teenager, turns into a still troubled adult and then transforms into a mother who will stop at nothing to save her child from a vicious predator.  And I loved every minute of it.

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One of my favorite parts of the book is when Vic handcuffs Lou, leaving him behind so she can venture forth into Christmasland to save Wayne.

Vic was no damsel in distress.  She knew that she had to be one the one to save (and ultimately sacrifice herself) in order to save her son.

Now, NOS4A2 may be a scary book.

But, like the books of dear old dad, it is so much more than that.

I love what this book has to say on art, artists and the creative process in genera.

I may be a bit biased, as someone who spends so much time creating her own “inscapes” but bear with me.

In fact, I love the idea of an “inscape” itself.

Because that is exactly what happens when someone creates something:  it is actually an escape from the “real” world into an entirely new one, whether that is a painting, a book, a song, etc.

And let’s not kid ourselves.  Those made up worlds become “real,” especially if the creator uses enough love and care in the creation of these worlds.

Middle Earth, Mid-World, Hogwarts.  How are those not “real,” along with the Harry Potters, Roland Deschains, Aragorns, and so forth who live in them?

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And when something happens to the people who populate these worlds, is the effect not felt in ours?  When Harry Potter realizes that Voldemort has been resurrected, for example, did the reader not fear for him, and join him in his grief for a lost friend and classmate?

So it stands to reason that there are “creatives” out there, whose gift is especially powerful (like Joe Hill, his father, JK Rowling, Tolkien and countless others) who can use their knives to cut reality (in Maggie’s words) and create new realities.

And the knife is just the tool, like Maggie so eloquently stated.

Sometimes, the knife is not harmful, and results in children’s books, paintings, etc.

But sometimes, some sick individual (like Charles Manx, who is actually all too plausible) will create a new reality.

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But this new reality is terrible, and only brings hurt to others.

And this is not uncommon, as so many predators who are similar to Charles Manx exist in our world.  They believe that what they are doing is actually a good thing.

It is then up to someone (a Vic McQueen, if you will) to try to put a stop to it.

Sometimes, that is successful.

Sometimes, it is not.  And that knife continues to cut, leaving blood behind.


Well, I am still a bit confused on what is a fact, and what is an alternative fact.

But I do not need an agency such as BARF to tell me that Joe is a fantastic writer, and that he will (hopefully) continue to churn them out, for many years to come.

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So that’s it for NOS4A2.  Join me later this month as we delve back into the world of dear old Dad, as we read and dissect an oldie but goodie, aka Christine!

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Burnin’ For You: My Review of The Fireman

It should be no secret that one of my favorite books of all time is The Stand, written by The Master.

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I have read this particular book more times than I can count (and seen the movie, too.)

The themes resonate with me, and I just love the story line.  I also love the characters, as they are unforgettable.  Stu Redman, Tom Cullen, Nick Andros, Nadine Cross, Harold Lauder…they are forever etched into my brain.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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So imagine my excitement when I heard about a “new” The Stand.  Not better or anything like that (as if, right?) but another re-imagining, if you will.  The same kind of story, just told in a new way.

Sign me up, I said!  I’m there, no questions asked!

Well, after the months of anticipation, I finally got the “new” The Stand, aka The Fireman.  And The Fireman is written by none other than The Master 2.0, aka Joe Hill.

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I have read everything that Joe Hill (the son of The Master, aka Stephen King) has ever written.  And he has quickly established himself as one of my favorite writers.  He comes by the moniker The Master 2.0 honestly.  Joe is certainly a chip off the old block, and may (gasp) even do some things better than the old block, although only time will tell on that statement.

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of Joe Hill’s latest novel, The Fireman.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

At the beginning of the novel, we are introduced to a young woman named Harper Grayson.  Harper is a school nurse, and loves her job.  We also learn that there is a massive epidemic that is slowing taking over Harper’s world.  The doctors and scientists refer to this plague as Draco Incendia Trychophyton.  To the general public, it is known as Dragonscale.  Anyone afflicted with Dragonscale first develops black and gold marks across his/her body.  At some point, the person afflicted with Dragonscale bursts into flame, dying an agonizing death.  There is no known cure for Dragonscale.

One day, Harper and several of her students witness a man burst into flames, due to the effects of Dragonscale.  This is a traumatic experience for Harper.  She returns home later that night and speaks to her husband, Jakob, who insists that she not continue working at the school, as Jakob is deathly afraid of becoming infected with Dragonscale.

Some months later, we learn that Harper is volunteering at a local hospital that mainly houses patients with Dragonscale.  The job is hard, as so many have died from the effects of Dragonscale, but Harper sticks with it.

One day, a man in a fireman’s suit brings in a little boy who is very ill.  The man becomes belligerent, stating that the boy’s case is an emergency.  After some arguments with the head nurse, the boy is examined and found to have a ruptured appendix.  It is also discovered that the boy’s name is Nick, and he is deaf.  The doctors operate on the boy, and he stays in the hospital for three days.  On the fourth day, the boy has disappeared.  The staff at the hospital is puzzled over this, as his room was located on an upper floor, and there are no signs of any forced entry.

While volunteering at the hospital, Harper meets a woman named Renee.  Renee is positive and upbeat, doing her best to make sure that those afflicted with Dragonscale get some happiness during their last days.  Renee reads to the children, and is not afraid to comfort the dying.  Harper becomes friends with Renee, and is devastated to learn that Renee is infected with Dragonscale.  One day, while reading to the children, Renee realizes that she will be overcome by the Dragonscale, and makes an exit from the hospital.  It is presumed that Renee passes away from the disease, but her body is never found.

Shortly after Renee’s death, the hospital where Harper is volunteering burns down.  Her husband, Jakob, offers her comfort, and tells her that he is determined to enjoy life, even if there is not much of that remaining for them.  That night, Harper and Jakob make love, and conceive their first child.

Harper soon finds out that she is pregnant.  Shortly afterwards, she she also finds out that she has somehow contracted Dragonscale.  Upon learning this news, Jakob becomes hysterical and leaves their home.  Jakob also begins to pressure Harper to end her life, even though Harper is opposed to this, as she is pregnant.

As the weeks pass by, the hysteria mounts.  Infected people are rounded up and put into concentration camps.  Some people take it upon themselves to rid the world of infected people, and resort to violence to do so.  Harper even receives a visit from some mysterious people in Halloween costumes, who somehow know that she is pregnant and offer prenatal vitamins to her.  Harper sees a man in a fireman costume when she sees these people.

One day, Harper makes the call to her brother Conor to let him know that she is pregnant and also infected with Dragonscale.  Conor and his wife become very upset at the news, but Harper begs them to take care of her baby, as she is convinced that she can still deliver a healthy baby.

Shortly after the conversation with her brother, Harper receives a visit from Jakob.  Jakob is hysterical and is convinced that he has contracted Dragonscale, even though Harper is not convinced of this.  Harper is frightened of Jakob, as he has come armed with a gun.

Jakob attacks Harper, but she retaliates by attacking him with a wine glass and is able to escape.  She then encounters the mysterious fireman she first met at the hospital, along with a woman named Allie who is wearing a Captain America costume.   The fireman fends off Jakob, and Harper realizes that he is also infected with Dragonscale.  However, the fireman appears to be able to control the effects of Dragonscale, and is even able to use the affliction as a sort of weapon.

The fireman and Allie lead Harper to a refugee camp that has been set up for those afflicted with Dragonscale.  There, Harper encounters Renee, the nurse who she thought had died from the effects of Dragonscale.  She also meets a man named Tom Storey, who is referred to as Father Story.  We also learn that the fireman’s name is John.  Harper is treated for her fractured ankle at the camp, and others also tell her that the Dragonscale can be controlled, and that death is not automatic.  Harper also learns that Nick, the deaf boy who was suffering from appendicitis at the hospital, is also a resident at the camp.  She also meets a woman named Carol, who is the daughter of Father Storey.

Later on, Harper speaks to Renee, who tells her the story of how she survived the Dragonscale and learned to control it, as opposed to letting it control her.  It appears that the Dragonscale responds negatively to distress and positively to happier emotions.

As the months go by, Harper struggles to adjust to life at the camp.  The camp begins to run low on supplies, and begins rationing food.  Harper also learns that the members of the camp were forced to kill another member, Harold Cross, who was going to betray them to the outside world.  This would allow the Cremation Squads, a group of people who have taken it upon themselves to destroy those who are infected with the Dragonscale, to find the camp.  Harper also begins to exhibit signs of infection, such as smoke coming from her skin, but still is not able to control the effects of the Dragonscale.

One morning, Harper awakens.  Her clothes are burning and she begins to feel that she is going to succumb to the Dragonscale.  She heads outside for a walk, and thinks that she hears John, the fireman who secludes himself from the rest of the camp, telling her not to give up.  This encourages Harper, and she returns to the camp, feeling somewhat at peace with herself.

Harper volunteers for kitchen duty the first day the rationing comes into effect.  She feels a joy when she realizes that people are volunteering to skip a meal so that others may eat.  She begins to sing a song from Mary Poppins, and feels a sort of euphoria that is so intense that she even temporarily forgets her own name.  At this point, Harper has learned how to control the effects of the Dragonscale, and begins to feel more optimistic.

It is soon revealed that someone is stealing items from women’s dormitory.  Father Storey makes a plea for that person to come forward, but no one does.  Harper becomes a victim of the thief, who steals the care package that she has made for her unborn child.  However, Harper momentarily forgets about the thief, when the fireman, John, makes his way into the camp and tells Harper that he needs her assistance, as there are two more refugees who have made their way into the camp.

While searching for medical supplies to assist the refugees, Harper finds a notebook that had been kept by Harold, the traitor who was killed a few months earlier.  Harper puts the notebook aside for the moment, and makes her to the rescue mission.

The rescue mission proves to be difficult, as the group is attacked by a Cremation Squad, which is a group of people who have taken it upon themselves to kill anyone who they believe is infected with Dragonscale.  John the fireman is able to distract the squad, and is able to escape with Harper’s help, even though he is injured.  Harper notices her husband Jakob on the squad, but he does not recognize her.

Harper helps John back to his cottage, and does her best to tend to his injuries.  She is summoned back to the main camp, however, because Tom Storey has also been badly injured.  Harper attempts to save Father Storey with her makeshift equipment.  He does not die, but does slip into a coma for two months.

The two convicts are accused of attempting to kill Father Storey, despite the lack of evidence.  Harper and Renee speak out against this, stating that keeping the men as prisoners in inhumane conditions is wrong.

Harper then heads back to her house, as she needs supplies.  She is surprised by the appearance of her husband, Jakob, and two fellow members of his Cremation Squad.  One of these men is the Marlboro Man, who is also a conservative radio talk show host.  Harper is able to hide from the men, and heads back to the camp several hours later.

After she returns to the camp, Harper heads over to John the fireman’s house.  She treats him for his injuries to the best of her ability, and learns the story of how he came to know Carol’s sister Sarah, who was the mother to Allie and Nick.  Harper begs John to teach her how to control the Dragonscale, but he refuses.  John tells Harper that he can use the Dragonscale to provide a distraction, so that she can obtain some desperately needed medical supplies.

When Harper returns to the camp, she finds out the other residents are angry with her, as they feel she could have betrayed their secrets.  Carol has punished Allie for neglecting her duties and letting Harper leave by placing a stone in her mouth so that she cannot speak.  Harper tells Allie that she will not accept the punishment, and Allie doesn’t have to either.  However, Allie ignores Harper and continues to play martyr.

Harper speaks to Renee, and the two worry about the direction that the group is taking, as they feel that Carol has become a dictator.

The next day, Harper is brought to Carol.  She also encounters one of the convicts who was previously rescued, named Gil, in Carol’s quarters.  Gil tells the story of how he and his friend Mazz escaped from prison, as they realized that people who were claiming to help them actually intended on killing them, as they witnessed several infected prisoners being shot.  Carol tells Gil that he still must remain in the camp’s prison, as she believes that Mazz was actually responsible for injuring her father and that Gil was an accomplice.  Harper also outlines John’s plan for obtaining medical supplies.  Carol is reluctant, but still tells Harper to put the plan in motion as soon as possible.

After the confrontation with Carol, Harper is attacked by group of girls, who pelt her with snowballs and force a stone into her mouth as punishment.  Allie is among the group, but does nothing to stop the attack.

The attempt to obtain medical supplies turns violent when the group hijacks an ambulance.  Several people are murdered and injured.  Harper attempts to help the injured, but is rebuffed by other members of the group.  Harper and her group are then attacked by a group led by Jakob and his friend the Marlboro Man.  Several members are killed, but Harper and a few others manage to escape, as what appears to be a phoenix shows up at the right time.

When Harper returns to the camp, she finds out that Father Storey has a close call with death but is still alive.  Carol is distraught, and tells Harper that she is only allowed to stay at the camp to care for her father.  Carol tells Harper that if Father Storey passes away, she will be forced to leave the camp.

Harper then receives a letter from Allie apologizing for her actions.  She speaks with another member of the camp, Michael, and learns that it was Allie who told the John the fireman what was happening when the group hijacked the ambulance, and that John sent over the phoenix to distract the Cremation Squad.  Michael talks of leaving the camp with Harper, Allie and other members who are unhappy with Carol’s rules.

Harper then visits John, and finds out that he has pneumonia.  She talks of leaving the camp, but tells John that he should lead that group, as she feels that she needs to stay to give birth to her baby.  Harper administers what treatment she can to John, and learns the story of how John, Allie, Nick and Tom learned to control the effects of the Dragonscale through singing.  However, John does not give any details as to how Sarah, who was never infected with the Dragonscale, died.

Back at the infirmary, Harper reads the journal of Harold Cross, the man who was thought to be a traitor.  She learns that there is an island for those infected with Dragonscale, known as Martha Quinn Island.  An internet search on a contraband cell phone confirms that this island is real.  Shortly after Harper digests this news, she receives another surprise:  it appears that Tom Storey has awakened from his coma.  However, Harper is not able to get any information from Tom, as he appears to go back to sleep.

John, Harper and several other members meet at John’s cottage one night to discuss plans for a possible escape from the camp.  Harper is chosen to be the leader of the group, due to her calm manner.  Harper stays behind when the others leave.  She shares a kiss with John, and learns the full story behind Sarah’s death.  Apparently, Nick had figured out how to fully control the Dragonscale, and taught John how to do so.  Sarah deliberately infected herself with Dragonscale, as she considered it a blessing, and not a curse.  However, Sarah did not allow for the infection to be in her body for a long enough time (according to Harold Cross’ notes, one needed to be infected for at least six weeks before the Dragonscale spread to the brain) and burned to death before she could control the infection.  However, not all of Sarah burned, as a part of essence remains in John’s cottage.

When Harper awakens the next morning, she finds out that Tom Storey has regained full consciousness.  And Tom has news to share:  he tells Harper that Carol, his daughter, deliberately set up Harold Cross to be murdered by a Cremation Squad, in order to make an example of him.  Father Storey asks that John be brought back to the camp, along with Allie, Nick and Carol, so that he may have his family by his side.

After receiving this information, Harper pays a visit to John’s cottage, and brings him back to the camp, so that he can speak to Tom Storey.  However, they are attacked by Michael, who actually is on the side of Carol and is not interested in fleeing the camp.  Michael also set up Harold Cross to be murdered by the cremation squad.  Michael also attempted to have Harper killed, as he was the one who set the Cremation Squad upon her when she returned to her home for medical supplies.  Michael has killed Tom, and plans on framing Harper for the murder.  He forces Harper to inject herself with insulin, to make it look like a murder and attempted suicide.

When Harper awakens, she faces Carol, along with an angry mob.  Harper, John and their followers are accused of conspiring to kill Tom Storey with intent of turning the camp into a prison camp.  Mazz, one of the rescued prisoners, also comes forward as a double agent.  The mob then begins to pelt John with stones.

Harper begins to fight, and finds that she can use the Dragonscale to do so.  She is able to rescue John, and she, Allie and John attempt to escape.  They realize that Nick, the young deaf boy, is also helping them, as Nick uses the Dragonscale to create a giant hand that is termed the Hand of God.

However, all is not well, as Nelson Heinrich, thought to have been killed in the heist of the ambulance and medical supplies, has led a Cremation Crew to the camp.  Harper, John, Allie and the rest of the members take shelter in the empty church.  There, Carol and her followers commit a sort of mass suicide, going up in flames while singing.

Renee and Gil find a firetruck, and use that to defeat the Cremation Squad, which includes Harper’s ex husband Jakob, and the Marlboro Man.  However, Gil is shot in the process and loses his life.  Nick leads Harper and the rest of the survivors to a sandy pit, and confesses that he was the thief who had been stealing supplies.  John does not come along, but promises Harper and the others that he will meet up with them in a day or two.

At the hideout, Nick tells the story of how Michael tricked him into stealing the items.  Shortly afterwards, John the fireman returns.  John makes another trip to gather food and supplies, and the survivors also hold a funeral for Gil.  John and Harper make plans to leave for Maine for Martha Quinn Island, as there are still Cremation Squads hunting the group.

The next morning, John, Harper and the rest of the survivors head for Maine via a truck, in an attempt to get to Martha Quinn Island.  Renee sees a cat that she thinks to be her cat, Mr. Truffles, and the group votes to bring the cat along, although John is not happy about this, as he feels the cat may be a danger to them.  After a tense inspection, the group passes a checkpoint and arrives in Maine, which has been destroyed by the Dragonscale.

The survivors are then attacked by Harper’s ex-husband, Jakob, who has tracked them down to Maine.  Harper battles her ex-husband, and is saved by a woman of flames, who is the essence of Sarah, Nick and Allie’s mother.  Jakob is literally burned alive. John also survives the attack, but is badly hurt.  The essence of Sarah bids her goodbyes to John, Nick and Allie, and then literally winks out of existence.

Harper and her friends continue on their way to Martha Quinn Island.  However, Harper grows increasingly worried about John, who contracts pneumonia in addition to the rest of his injuries.

As the group makes its way to Martha Quinn Island, they find supplies and provisions along the way.  However, the healthy people greet them with mistrust, and do their best not to make any contact with those infected with Dragonscale.  Someone also leaves antibiotics for John, who then begins to show signs of recovery.

Finally, the group makes it to Martha Quinn Island.  However, on the boat ride to the island, Harper finds out that they have been tricked:  there is no island for survivors.  Instead, the infected are euthanized, in attempt to rid the world of Dragonscale.  John confronts Jim, the captain of the boat, and is shot in the stomach.  However, John uses the power of the Dragonscale to burn the boat and their attackers, saving Harper and the others.  The group is then rescued by Don Lewiston, another survivor from Carol’s camp who had previously gotten a head start to Martha Quinn Island.  Once they are on Don’s boat, Harper gives birth to a baby girl.  The baby is also infected with Dragonscale.  Harper names her Ashley.

Don speaks of other islands for those infected with Dragonscale, and Harper and her friends agree to set sail for them, in the hopes that they will be able to survive in the new world they now inhabit.


My Thoughts

Well, let me just say this much:

Joe Hill, you are on fire!

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Seriously, this book was smoking, and fanned the flames of my love for Joe Hill and his writing!

Ok, we got that out of the way, aka the obligatory fire puns that I intended to burn you with (see what I did there.)

So, let’s get something else out of the way…

As I have said before, Joe Hill may be the son of The Master, but he is definitely his own man.  And I love that about him.

However, there were so many nods to The Master, and I had so many fan girl moments…

So let’s talk about those…

First of all, the homage to The Stand.  My favorite King book of all time.  So of course, the fan girling was intense.

For instance, a deaf kid who just happened to be named…Nick?!  You bet!  My number one book boo exists on the Joe Hill level of The Tower…who knew???

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The many references to Watership Down!, and the guy who claimed he couldn’t get into into a book about rabbits, but loved the book anyway…sound like our favorite redneck from East Texas, anyone?

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A character named Harold Cross?  Is he the unfortunate lovechild of the couple we loved to hate in The Stand?

And the homage went way beyond even The Stand

Nozza-la, anyone?  Hey, you gotta take what you can get, you can’t be picky about soda in the post apocalyptic world.  Now excuse me while I take a look at my Takuro Spirit, can’t seem to find anyone to service this particular vehicle for some reason…

Oh, and a scary guy with a croquet mallet?  Now I’m craving “red rum”…hope that’s something you can “overlook!”

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The mention of Tom Gordon…a girl can love him, right?

Ok, enough with the bad jokes…time to take a stand against them…haha!

I also loved the references to pop culture in this book, along with the humor.  Someone is definitely a chip off the old block.

I mean, he had Glenn Beck catch fire and burn to death…giggle snort…this brought a much needed smile to me that day!

Although he was bit harsh on JK Rowling.  But somehow, it’s fitting that the masses would turn on her for trying to help those who contracted the ‘scale…

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And the pod people had taste in music…they sang U2’s One…swoon!

Time to talk about Harper Willowes, our main character.

This book may be titled The Fireman, but make no mistake about it:  this is Harper’s book (sorry John, you are still awesome anyway!)

We have Arya Stark.  We have Beverly Marsh.  We have Robin Martine, from Malus Domestica by SA Hunt.

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And now we have Harper Willowes.

In other words, Harper is a bad ass woman. Extremely bad ass.  And she did most of this bad assery while she was pregnant…mind = blown!

Anyone who escapes from an abusive relationship is a bad ass, in my book.  And Harper did that, relatively early in the story, when she got away from Jakob (really, this guy should top a list of book douches.  Beats women and listens to conservate talk radio…real winner right there!)

While John the Fireman may be the camp’s X Factor, Harper Willowes is really the camp’s heart.  Her fellow survivors come to depend on her, and not just for her nursing skills.  Harper is able to remain calm and rational, when most people are not.  She is even able to remain calm and rational in regards to her child, whom she considers turning over to adoptive parents once he/she is born, so she does not pass the ‘scale on to her child.

Harper is someone you want on your side at any time (although I will skip the Mary Poppins, thanks), but especially in a time of crisis.  There is something to be said for someone of that nature, as I can think of few people that I know personally whom I could trust in a time of crisis…makes me actually wish Harper was real.

Joe Hill did a good job with his previous female characters, such as Georgia (Heart Shaped Box), Vic (N0S4A2), Merrin (Horns) and now Harper (The Fireman.)  Finding a good female character in any book can be a problem, but so far, Joe Hill is stepping up to the plate nicely in this regard.

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So, let’s talk about the structure of this book, and the ending.

Especially about the ending, but more on that later.

A prevailing theme in this book was the fact that our greatest enemy is…well…us.  I was constantly reminded of that old Pogo cartoon, where one character tells another that he has met the enemy, and the enemy is us.

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This book did not need an evil wizard (although there is nothing wrong with those) in order to be scary.  Nor did it need need an infectious horrible disease that kills people in horrible ways (nothing wrong with that though, either, natch.)

Instead, humans were the bad guys in this book.  We had the members of The Cremation Squads.  Just the name of that is horrible enough.  They also carried out that first word, burning those believed to be infected with Dragonscale, in the name of keeping everyone else safe.  So definitely pretty horrible.

But we also had fanaticism, aka “Mother” Carol and her band of zealots.  And these guys were supposed to be on the side of the good!  However, their treatment of those who had the nerve to disagree with them was almost as bad as what the Cremation Squad did those infected with the ‘scale.

Fanaticism is something that comes up often in the works of Papa King, and Mr. Hill seems to be a chip off the old block in that regard as well.  I was constantly reminded of Ms. Carmody in The Mist, and how her religious fanaticism was almost as big a threat as the inter-dimensional monsters.  Her fanaticism was also about as useful as Carol’s fanaticism when the big showdown came, and both women ultimately proved themselves useless in the fight against the greater enemy.

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Joe Hill spent a great deal of time discussing how those infected with Dragonscale were treated, and the parallels I drew were disturbing, to say the least.

Throughout time, there has always been some sort of threat.  At least, we are led to believe we need to be afraid of something.  After all, if there is not someone or something to fear and persecute, then what good is being human, right?

We have had Ebola virus.  The internet gets really interesting, when it finally becomes public knowledge that there have been people infected with Ebola who have been traveling in and out of our country (and others) for decades.  Suddenly, everyone becomes an expert in biology and obtains medical license, and knows the best way to handle those infected (hint: it usually involves something much more inhumane than offering the sick chicken noodle soup.)

There is the Islamo-phobia that Glenn Beck, Donald Trump and the rest of the Faux News crowd is intent on perpetuating.  After all, if I am not in constant fear of a terrorist attack by Muslims (since white Christians never commit those, natch), then I am just not a good American!

Way back when, we had the Jewish refugees.  Many requested refugee status when things started to go south in Germany, and were denied.  Or if they did manage to migrate here, they were shunned, almost as if they had a disease that people feared because most did not understand it.

Sounds pretty familiar, huh?  I have said it before and I will say it again:  human fuckery is the worst kind of horror there is.  And Joe Hill drives home that point again and again, in The Fireman.

Ok, let’s talk about the ending to this one.

I admit it, I grew complacent.

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What can I say, it was last week…I was naive back then!

This ending has left me to conclude that Joe Hill is a genius.  Seriously, he needs to win a Pulitzer prize!

Now, I should have had a clue.  They were calling the so-called sanctuary “Martha Quinn Island”, after all.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Martha Quinn, but she is sort of a relic (gah, I just got old.)

Joe Hill was born in 1972, and is only six years older than I am.  In other words, we are of the same generation.

And my generation tends to idealize the 1980’s, in much the same way that my parents continue to idealize the 1960’s.

So naming the so-called sanctuary after an 80’s icon is just somehow fitting.  We want to believe that the 1980’s were a simpler time, in much the same way that we want to believe that there just has to be a sanctuary somewhere that will take care of in our time of need.  How could there not be?

I was struck by how easy it was to lull (most) of the survivors, once they had escaped Carol, along with the defeat of the Cremation Squad.  It reminded of the rabbits in Watership Down! who are actually captives of a farmer who raises them for food, but they don’t know they are captives.  Like Harper and the other survivors, they become complacent.  And of course, they don’t come to a good end.

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Honestly, the ending shocked me a bit, but in the end (see what I did there), I was not entirely surprised by this ending.  And I believe that this ending was the only ending and therefore the right ending.

Unfortunately, nothing is ever so cut and dried in “real life.”  We want to believe that there is still good out there, and that there are people who have our best interests at heart.  Oftentimes, we allow ourselves to be fooled, even though we know that we should be more aware.  We don’t want to believe that we will lose that job that we have had for years.  We get married, and think that we will live happily ever after.  We don’t want to believe that anyone we love can die, much less die before their time.  And we would like to believe that if there was a plague that resulted in us contracting a disease that could potentially result in a painful death, that there would be people out there dedicated to possibly curing the disease, as opposed to simply eradicating those afflicted with the disease.

But again, human fuckery rears its ugly head.  It probably started with human fuckery, and then it ends with human fuckery.  Joe Hill reminds us this yet again.

But with this ending, Joe Hill also gives us something else:  hope.  After all, Harper safely delivers her baby.  And she will keep her baby, as the baby is also infected with Dragonscale.  Harper may have lost John, but Nick, Renee, Allie and the others survive.  And if they survived, along with their rescuer Don, there may well other survivors.  And maybe, just maybe, there will be a chance to rebuild.

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Fire can be used to destroy.  But like almost everything, fire has a dual nature.  Fire can be used to create as well.  And sometimes, everything must be destroyed, if we are ever to have a chance to emerge from the ashes, much like a phoenix, and attempt to rebuild.


Stephen King has said that if he passes away and leaves any unfinished manuscripts, he is not worried because he knows that Joe Hill is more than capable of finishing those manuscripts.  And this is a comforting thought, indeed.

And it’s also a comforting thought that Joe Hill is just getting started, and that we are only at the beginning of a great writing career.  And I can’t wait to find out where that career will lead.

 

 

Special Delivery: My Review of Heart Shaped Box

Oh, hangovers…

They are the worst!

You have fun, you party hard and life is good!

Until you wake up, and can’t piece together your night, and find out later that you had some wild shenanigans with your friends and maybe even got married the previous night…

Hangover 1

Well, maybe its not quite that bad, but they are no fun.  No fun at all.

Yeah, nothing like reading an awesome book series, going crazy and having all kinds of fun…

Until you are done reading those books.  And then the payback…oh, the payback…

Yes, I am referencing a book hangover.  I have had my share of the other kind of hangover, but given that this blog is devoted to all things nerdy, I thought I would acknowledge book hangovers…after all, the struggle is real!

If you have been following this blog at all over the past 6 months or so (and I truly thank both  all of my devoted fans), you would know that I just finished reading all eight (all eight!) Dark Tower books.  I read the revised edition of The Gunslinger!  I even read The Wind Through the Keyhole!

And this series is epic…it was penned by The Master, after all!

Stephen King mit Katze "Clovis", tierischer Held des Films "Schlafwandler". Der Meister des Horrors wird am Sonntag (21.09.1997) 50 Jahre. Mit 50 hat er mehr als 30 Romane veröffentlicht, ein Sachbuch, fünf Geschichtensammlungen und neun Drehbücher. dpa (zu dpa-Korr vom 17.09.1997) nur s/w

But so much epic-ness has a consequence.  And the past six months were an epic party:  I felt invincible.  I chugged shots  books like no one’s business.  And I am sure if there was a literary equivalent of a keg stand, I did that too.

But all good things must come to an end, and that includes my read and review of The Dark Tower series.  And I have been nursing that hangover for a couple of weeks now.  Like in my younger partying days, I have been averse to light and noise.  And just looking at food  books has made me feel pretty nauseous…

So I needed a cure.  The literary equivalent of a comfy couch, gallons of Gatorade and a carb filled breakfast to settle my insides…what was a nerd to do?

Well, after much searching (actually not that much searching), I found my cure…

No, not the hair of the dog that bit me!

Cujo

A much better cure.  A cure that offers a long term solution:

Joe Hill 1

No, I did not wear a pair of Horns on my head!

I am talking about the man behind the horns himself…

None other than Joe Hill!

As most people know, Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King.  And he writes scary stories.  And he has a wicked sense of humor.  A regular chip off the old block, in other words.

But the comparisons end there.  Make no mistake, Stephen King is Stephen King (and I don’t want it any other way).  And Joe Hill is Joe Hill.  I don’t want that any other way, either.  He can write a scary story like Dad, and sculpt interesting characters that the readers become invested in (again, just like Dad).

Again, make no mistake about it:  Joe Hill may have some similarities to his old man (and his stories may also link with Dad’s and could be considered a part of Dad’s universe), but his style is all his own.

And I love it.  Its refreshing.  Kind of like the literary equivalent of a comfy couch, gallons of Gatorade and a carb filled breakfast to settle your insides…

In other words, I found the perfect (literary) hangover cure: Joe Hill.  And reading his work is much better than trying to ingest some of the hair of the dog that bit me!

So, I chose the book Heart Shaped Box to help ease my hangover.  And it was perfect:  scary, great characters and great setting.  In other words, just what I needed to ease the pain, and make me a little less grouchy.

And without further ado, here is my review of my hangover cure, aka the book Heart Shaped Box!

HSB 2


 

Synopsis

The book begins with an introduction to a man named Judas Coyne.  We learn that Judas is a musician for a heavy metal band who has been moderately successful.  We also learn that Judas has a penchant for collecting macabre souvenirs:  a snuff film, a piece of artwork from a serial killer, and a few other unusual items.

One of these items is a ghost.  Jude receives an email offering the ghost of a man who has recently died for sale, and promptly pays the $1000 asking price.  The “ghost” arrives at Judas’ home a few days later, and is actually a suit that was owned by the dead man, Craddock McDermott.

Almost immediately, Judas begins to notice odd occurrences that coincide with the arrive of his “ghost.”  His girlfriend Georgia (whose real name is Marybeth), pricks her finger on one of the pins that holds the suit together, and her finger becomes infected.  Judas’ dogs, Bon and Angus, become aggressive in the presence of the suit.  Judas begins to have odd dreams.  And worst of all, Judas begins to see an apparition of what can only be the dead man, whose eyes resemble squiggly lines.  The ghost also carries a razor on a silver chain and brandishes it as a weapon.  This causes his girlfriend Georgia to recall an incident from her childhood, when she also encountered a ghost: Georgia glanced out the window of her grandmother’s house, and saw what appeared to be a little girl, who also had eyes that looked like black squiggly lines.  Georgia later finds out that this is the ghost of her grandmother’s sister, who disappeared as a child and was never found.  Judas becomes frightened, as he realizes that he is actually being haunted and that this ghost does not have good intentions.

Judas makes a phone call to Jessica, the woman who sold him the suit.  He then finds out that Jessica is actually the sister to one of his former girlfriends, Florida (whose name is really Anna).  Jessica tells Judas that Anna committed suicide, and blames Jude’s breakup with her for Anna’s death.  The “ghost” is actually the girls’ stepfather Craddock McDermott, and Jessica reminds Jude that he has paid for the ghost of the old man, and will forever be cursed.

The odd occurrences continue.  Judas’ assistant Danny realizes that ghost intends to kill everyone associated with Jude, and resigns from his position immediately.  Judas later receives an odd late night phone call from Danny, who has actually committed suicide.  Judas falls asleep in one of his vehicles, and nearly dies from carbon monoxide poisoning.  The ghost continues to torment Judas, even after Georgia burns the suit.  Judas sees an old pick up truck that belongs to the dead man.  The ghost continues to taunt Judas, flashing the razors that Anna used to commit suicide.  Georgia becomes frightened, and encourages Jude to leave town with her.

Judas has a final confrontation at his home with the ghost, but is saved by the intervention of his dogs.  He theorizes that dogs can act as familiars and are therefore able to fight the ghost.  Judas leaves his home with Georgia and the dogs, and heads to Louisiana to confront Jessica.  Georgia insists that they stop and visit her grandmother, and also tells Judas that they may need to raise the spirit of Anna to fight the ghost of Craddock McDermott.

The next morning, Jude awakens in the hotel room with a particular tune in his head that he plays on his guitar.  Jude notices that the ghost is not present when he is playing the tune on his guitar.  However, the ghost reminds Jude and Georgia of its presence when they venture out of the hotel room, without the dogs or the mysterious tune.  Georgia nearly commits suicide per the suggestion of the ghost of Craddock McDermott.  Jude and Georgia then hightail it to Georgia’s grandmother’s house.

Jude and Georgia arrive at Georgia’s grandmother’s house, and use Georgia’s old Ouija board to summon the spirit of Anna McDermott.  They are successful, and receive a plea from Anna to stop the ghost of her stepfather.  Later on Jude sees the ghost of Georgia’s grandmother’s dead sister, and actually speaks to her, telling her to to not leave with her kidnappers.  Georgia’s grandmother tells Jude that this may put the spirit to rest, as someone has shown some concern about her fate and attempted to speak to her.  Despite the pleas from her grandmother, Georgia and Jude continue on their journey.

Before he leaves Georgia’s hometown, Jude stops at a local used car lot, and confronts the man who molested Georgia as a teenager.  Jude punches the man in the face, and takes one of his loafers as a souvenir, so that Georgia may have some closure.

Judas and Georgia then confront Jessica at her house.  Jude tells Jessica that Anna did not kill herself, but was rather hypnotized by her stepfather, who actually cut her wrists.  Jessica and Anna had both been abused by their stepfather, and McDermott continued the abuse with Jessica’s daughter.  Anna had threatened to go to the police and press charges, and her death was an attempt to keep her quiet.  A bloody fight then ensues at the house, and McDermott’s ghost returns and turns Jessica’s daughter Reese against Georgia and Jude.  Reese is able to shoot Jude with a gun, which results in the loss of Jude’s finger.  Reese also shoots Jude’s dog Bon and mortally wounds her.  Georgia and Jude escape, but barely.

Once Georgia and Jude escape to their vehicle, Judas has a vision where he witnesses the final confrontation between Anna, Jessica and their stepfather.  Anna does indeed threaten legal action, and Jessica and McDermott blame her changed behavior on Jude, and cover up Anna’s death with a staged suicide.  Jude awakens from his trance, and the ghost of Craddock McDermott speaks to him on the radio, again telling Jude that this confrontation will result in his death.

Judas and Georgia then reach their destination:  Jude’s childhood home.  However, Jude’s other dog, Angus, passes away on the journey, leaving Jude with no protection from the ghost.

The ghost returns to Jude while Jude tries to recuperate from his injury.  The ghost possesses the body of Jude’s dying father.  Georgia has a show down with Craddock McDermott, and shoots Jude’s father, killing him.  The ghost vacates the dead body, but Georgia is able to channel the spirit of Anna, who calls Craddock McDermott back to the afterlife and away from the corporate world.  However, this causes Georgia to become trapped in the afterlife.

Jude is able to bring Marybeth back from the afterlife, and the two spend some time in the hospital recovering.  Georgia and Jude return to New York and eventually get married and adopt new dogs.  Jessica is arrested by local authorities for abusing her daughter and faces a lengthy prison sentence.  Several years later, Jessica’s daughter Reese hitchhikes to New York and visits Jude and Georgia, thanking them for their actions.  The couple sends Reese on her way, giving her money and a ride so that she may build a better life for herself.


 

My Thoughts

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.

I will not…

Oh, wait…ah, screw it, I’m human and the comparison is inevitable, dammit!

Simpsons SK

But although I may compare Joe Hill to Dad (a lot, hey I am human, at least the doctors tell me that…haha), I still want to emphasize that Joe Hill is Joe Hill…

And like Dad (damn comparisons), there is so much to love about Joe Hill…

One thing I love about a Joe Hill is that he is close to my age (six years OLDER than me, in case you cared).  So many of his references are…well…recognizable.  In other words, I don’t have to turn to Google (much) to get them…

Even the title of this book:

Kurt Cobain 1

Yep, it seems the title of his book is a tribute to the guy above.  Someone who colored much of my adolescence (and Joe Hill’s too, I am sure), and who still continues to influence my generation (and beyond to this day).

And there is the character of Jude himself…

And how can Jude NOT be a tribute to this guy:

HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 01: TV Personality Ozzy Osbourne arrives at the premiere of Columbia Pictures' "Total Recall" held at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on August 1, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Maybe we have a Twinner, ladies and gentleman!  Jude biting the head off of a bat does not actually seem that far fetched, if you think about it…

Oh, boy…and speaking of Jude…

Judas Coyne 1

Judas Coyne has to be one of the most complex characters in any book I have ever read…

In fact, he may even rival our friendly neighborhood gunslinger!

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When I read this book, I am just not sure what to do with Judas.  Sometimes, I just want to Tombstone him (although he would probably enjoy that, and that would actually be kind of fitting)!  But then he beats the living shit out of the man who molested his girlfriend as a child…

Jude takes Georgia’s (Marybeth’s) word for it, and hunts the man down.  And pummels him.  Hard.  Really hard.  And then I just wanted to give him a big old kiss, tongue and all.  Won’t the first time a literary character has gotten me hot.  Nor the last…

And speaking of sexual abuse:  I spent the first half or so of this book being petrified…

I mean, there was a guy with squiggly marks for eyes and a silver razor for a weapon who kept appearing and wouldn’t go away (well, except he hated dogs and haunting guitar melodies, apparently).  And the fact that Jude owned him because he paid for him (really, we need more disclaimers on these online purchases):  shudder.  Burning the suit didn’t stop, he just hopped into his ghastly truck and continued his campaign of terrorism that way.  He even had the power to give poor Marybeth (Georgia) a nasty infection on finger…eek!

But the second half of the book was different.  I was no longer scared.  Not scared at all.  Instead, I got pissed.  Righteously pissed, in fact!

As Hill began to reveal more about what was really going on, i.e. the abuse suffered by poor Anna, Georgia’s molestation and even the abuse suffered by Jude, who had to make adjustments so that he could continue playing guitar, the ghost with the squiggly eyes took a backseat.  My fear was replaced with anger:  how can people you are supposed to trust (parents, your friends’ parents, etc) be so…well…shitty?  What on earth is wrong with people?  How can you abuse your own stepdaughter, and then treat her in such a condescending manner when she (understandably) sinks into to depression?  How can you, when you were abused by your stepfather, along with your sister, allow your stepfather to do the same to YOUR daughter?

In other words, Heart Shaped Box is something beyond a ghost story.   This is not to diminish the ghost story, which is creepy and terrifying in its own right.  But there is so much more to this story than ghosts with icky looking eyes. It is a story of abuse, obviously.  Nearly every single character, including Judas, was a victim of abuse at some point.  And the effects of that abuse were felt for a long, long time (including the effects on Jude, whose father’s abuse took quite the toll on him and likely affected his adult life, such as his decision to not have children, his divorce, etc).

Heart Shaped Box also deals with betrayal.  Nearly every single character has been betrayed by some he/she was supposed to trust, or betrayed someone who trusted him/her.  Jude was betrayed by his father, who abused him, and his mother, who did not protect him from the abuse.  Georgia was molested by a family friend.  Anna was abused her stepfather, and Reese was abused by the same man.  Both women were also sold out by Jessica, the sister and mother who should have protected them.  Jude also does his share of betraying:  he turns Anna away when she needs him most, sending her back to the hornets nest, which ultimately leads to her death.  And Jude nearly betrays Georgia, as he puts her life at risk in order to defeat the ghost of Craddock McDermott.

However, Heart Shaped Box is also a book about redemption.  The characters may have suffered abuse and betrayal, but many are able to obtain redemption.  Georgia is able to confront her abuser and obtain some closure, which allows Anna to help her and Jude from beyond the grave.  Jude is also able to obtain redemption, as he is able to save Georgia, unlike Anna.  Jude also obtains redemption because he and Georgia are able to turn Reese’s situation around for her, so she does not suffer the same fate as her aunt.  Even Anna obtains redemption.  Although she is dead, she is still able to defeat her stepfather and save her niece from her stepfather’s evil influence.  And Reese is perhaps the most redeemed character of all:  she is able to escape from her family and finally begin to build a normal, happy life.


Well, I am starting to feel a little better…

The literary hangover is slowly dissipating…

Turns out a bit of the old Joe Hill was just what I needed…

So thank you Joe Hill.  Whether I am hung over, or have been stone cold sober for days on end, you are just what the doctor ordered!

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